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“Experience shows that most parishes start with three to five people who are one family, usually,” he continues. “In about five years, events unfold and that community gains a certain status as a community that opens people to Christ, that cares not only for its parishioners but for everybody in the locale.”

Proactively, the priest says the church, given its limited means, tries to purchase four properties a year for its priests, to transition away from leasing living and pastoral space.

From his office, Father Chudiyovych administers a flock of nearly 6,000 regular churchgoers, or three times as many in the case of major holidays such as Easter. According to a survey conducted in March by the Razumkov Centre, a public policy think tank in Ukraine, likely tens of thousands of Greek Catholics live within the boundaries of the central Ukrainian archeparchy.

“Parishes want to help,” the chancellor says. “The church for Greek Catholic believers has a wider meaning than just to come, pray and leave. They want to build a community around a church — not just to take part in confession and partake in the holy Communion.”

Curia support is also given to priests to generate ideas about parish and community building. Yearly, pastors are sent handbooks on how to build a parish based on their own ideas, collected during annual clergy retreats.

During these gatherings, which happen several times a year, priests exchange ideas and their experiences on what works and what does not in terms of boosting spirituality, biblical knowledge and grasp of Christian ethics and customs.

Through such collaborations, Father Chudiyovych has noticed several trends. For one, by reaching out to children, priests find that this eases outreach to their parents, close relatives and their circle of friends. Additionally, he says, organizing retreats and in-country pilgrimages gives people a wider perspective of the world Christian community in which they reside. Such outings also spread the word of their experiences and attract more parishioners.

“What works is having local communities discover Christian tradition, in particular Christmas and Easter traditions,” Father Chudiyovych says.

“The Soviet Union really destroyed these traditions in society — for example, carols, or when a priest speaks about the Last Supper before Christmas and its significance. When they discover these traditions, people get a deeper feeling for the church.”

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Mark Raczkiewycz is the Ukraine correspondent for the New Jersey-based The Ukrainian Weekly. His work has appeared in The Kyiv Post, The Financial Times, The Irish Times and Jane's Intelligence, among other places.

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